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The Excess Burden of Taxation and Why it (Approximately) Quadruples When the Tax Rate Doubles

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Abstract

The 'excess burden' of taxation represents an efficiency loss which must be compared with any perceived gains arising either from income redistribution or the non-transfer expenditure carried out by the government. An important property is that, under certain assumptions, it increases disproportionately with the tax rate. This result provides the basis of a general presumption in favour of a broad-based and low tax rate system: any exemptions which reduce the tax base inevitably raise the tax rate required to obtain anunchanged amount of total tax revenue. The aims of this paper are to provide a nontechnical explanation of the concepts of welfare change and excess burden used in the public finance literature, and to demonstrate the result that an approximation to thisburden depends on the square of the tax rate.

Suggested Citation

  • John Creedy, 2003. "The Excess Burden of Taxation and Why it (Approximately) Quadruples When the Tax Rate Doubles," Treasury Working Paper Series 03/29, New Zealand Treasury.
  • Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:03/29
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    File URL: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/wp/2003/03-29/twp03-29.pdf
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    1. Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2001. "Integrating Expenditure and Tax Decisions: The Marginal Cost of Funds and the Marginal Benefit of Projects," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 54(2), pages 189-202, June.
    2. James R. Hines, 1999. "Three Sides of Harberger Triangles," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 167-188, Spring.
    3. Auerbach, Alan J. & Hines, James Jr., 2002. "Taxation and economic efficiency," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 21, pages 1347-1421 Elsevier.
    4. Cornes,Richard, 1992. "Duality and Modern Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521336017, April.
    5. King, Mervyn A., 1983. "Welfare analysis of tax reforms using household data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 183-214, July.
    6. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
    7. Diamond, P. A. & McFadden, D. L., 1974. "Some uses of the expenditure function in public finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 3-21, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Felicity C Barker & Robert A Buckle & Robert W St Clair, 2008. "Roles of Fiscal Policy in New Zealand," Treasury Working Paper Series 08/02, New Zealand Treasury.
    2. Helmut M. Dietl & Markus Lang & Stephan Werner, 2009. "Social Welfare in Sports Leagues with Profit-Maximizing and/or Win-Maximizing Clubs," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 375-396, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Taxation; excess burden; equivalent variation; compensating variation;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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